No matter how long you’ve been in this business, whether you are new or a seasoned freelance writer, chances are, becoming a better writer will be super important to you.
After all, writing is a skill. It’s something you learned to do, and it’s something you can learn to do even better with a little hard work and practice.
And similar to any career, being a great freelance writer requires some professional development if you want to continue to be successful. You have to commit to learning more, bettering your skillset and improving your talents, and doing this for the entirety of your career. It’s the only way to stay at the top of your game for both you and your clients.
But, don’t worry…this doesn’t mean you have to take monthly writing courses or even read dozens of books a year (although I know most of my writing friends out there LOVE to read!)
Becoming a better writer just requires some effort and attention. Here are some ways I like to keep my craft top-notch…let me know if you do any of these too.
Write Just for Fun
Yes, writing can be fun. It’s supposed to be!
Just because you’re a freelance writer by trade doesn’t mean that everything you write has to be a direct trade-off for payment. In fact, if you want to be a better writer, it shouldn’t be.
Every once in a while, take time out to simply be creative. Sit down and write out a short story that’s been shuffling through your mind. Find some creative writing prompts online and write to those for a few hours. Write a poem or a letter for a friend.
The main goal here is to let your writing flow freely. Don’t worry too much about structure or format, and forget pleasing anyone. Just write what you want, how you want it. Most of the time, you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with, and you’ll come out of the exercise more inspired and excited about your career than ever before.
You can’t be a great writer if you don’t read, so schedule some time in your busy life to pick up a good book (here are some recommendations), catch up on the latest blogs in your niche or even just read the newspaper. Make it a point to read things that are varied, both in difficulty and topic.
Read some of the greats, like Hemingway and Dickens, skip forward a few years and read some young adult novels just for fun, and then take a break and maybe read a little poetry. Expose your mind to all kinds of writing, and let it all soak in and inspire you.
Expand Your Vocabulary
You would be surprised to know that I am terrible at vocabulary!
My husband and I laugh about this but I often use words wrong all the time and even make up my own. I have developed my own language!
Even if your vocabulary isn’t as bad as mine, the more words you have in your arsenal, the more creative freedom you will have with your writing. So try to expand your vocabulary whenever possible. While reading is a great way to expose yourself to new words, that’s not the only option that’s out there.
Use games to expand your vocabulary – crossword puzzles, Scrabble and Boggle are all great, word-centric games that are fun and functional at the same time.
Listening to great speakers is another effective method, so get on YouTube and start finding recent TED talks and other speeches you might find interesting. Keep a dictionary on hand to look up any terms you don’t know.
Keep a Notebook Handy
We freelance writers are a creative bunch, and you can’t always nail down when creativity will strike!
Yes, you can schedule out hours when you plan to work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get your best ideas or inspiration during those hours. In fact, you may even experience writer’s block if you’re not careful!
If you really want to catch lightning in a bottle, always carry a notebook around with you in your purse or pocket. Then, when an idea, sentence or even just a few words or phrases come to mind, you can write them down for later use.
Cut Out the Distractions
It’s easy to get distracted when working from home.
Facebook anyone? (Guilty!)
There are dogs barking, kids crying, dishes to clean and all kinds of other chaos, and these distractions can keep us from producing our best work. Though there’s no way to completely rid your world of all distractions, there are some ways you can cut down on the clutter.
- Change locations – Moving to a quiet room or even a bench in a local park can be a great way to break free of the distractions of home.
- Eliminate on-screen distractions – If it’s on-screen distractions that are getting in your way, my favorite tools are OmmWriter and WriteRoom – programs that take over your screen and cut out the other windows that steal your attention. They even have customizable backgrounds and music that’s designed to make you more productive.
Approaching your work with a plan is a great way to improve your final product, so if it’s possible, always do a little brainstorming before you get to work.
Free-write your ideas for the piece, and jot down little tidbits about each one. Then, create a detailed outline of how the piece will look – the intro, the main points of the copy, the conclusion and anything and everything in between.
Once you start writing the actual content, you’ll have a much clearer picture of where you’re going, and you’ll be able to write faster and more efficiently. It’s a win-win situation.
Anytime you can, solicit feedback on your work.
Yes, it can be hard to take criticism at times, but feedback can give you great insight into the quality of your work, as well as how to improve it.
Who should give you feedback?
Your best bet is your clients. Have them tell you what they liked, what they didn’t like and what they want to see improved or changed.
If your client doesn’t have time to give you the detailed feedback you need, consider sending your copy to a friend, family member or former colleague. Ask them to give you their honest opinion, as well as suggestions on how to better the piece. Remember: They’re not trying to tear you down… only make you better. Don’t take any criticism personally!
If you are interested, I created a writing course specifically for freelance writers. I created it because I know that most of you don’t have time to go back to school and take professional courses. Also, you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on training. I compiled all of my professional writing, grammar and research tips I learned from world-class editors and created a video training course called Maggie’s Writing Skillset Workshop. Learn exactly what you need to wow clients and become a high-earning writer, and absolutely nothing more :). No fluff! Learn more about this course here.
Becoming a Better Writer
If you want to become a better writer, try some of these skills I addressed here. I promise they will help.
And remember that no matter how successful you become, you will always be a student and forever learning and growing.